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In 1995, Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, concluded his influential book Being Digital with the observation that the advent of digital technology was no ordinary phenomenon. "Being digital is different," he said. "We are not waiting on any invention. It is here. It is now. It is almost genetic in its nature, in that each generation will become more digital than the preceding one."

Indeed, with each passing year since those words were written the world has become more and more digital. The pace of change has been swift. Entire industries have been transformed by the new digital reality. Whether it is in the field of music, photography, publishing, journalism, banking, finance, manufacturing, health care, education, entertainment—no segment of industry or government is untouched. Today digital technologies pervade almost every aspect of life in modern society. If there is a first law of digital technology, it would be this: whatever can be, will be transformed to bits.

In this course we explore the transformation from "atoms" to "bits" that Negroponte aptly described. We examine a variety of business, technical, legal and ethical issues and seek to identify the opportunities and challenges managers face in the incessant movement toward being digital. We also look at a number of enterprises spawned by digital technology to learn about how they function. Among these "digital enterprises" are some of the world's most-recognized names—Amazon, eBay, iTunes, Yahoo! and Google. But we also learn about less widely known enterprises that each in their own way are making a mark on the digital frontier.

At the core of the digital revolution is the remarkable and far-reaching Internet, which serves as the circulatory system for the torrent of bits flowing through cyberspace. The Internet is the vast network of networks that ties together millions of computers in such a way as to allow us the unprecedented ability to interact with each other. The Internet is surely a technical marvel, but it is much more than silicon and fiber. At its core is a protocol that allows a multitude of digital devices to speak the same language and thereby exchange bits of information. In this way, the Internet is glue that binds the digital world together.

Each day countless individuals—perhaps as many as one billion—around the world enter the digital realm via the Internet to do various tasks from the mundane to the masterful. What brings people of all ages and every walk of life to the Internet in such numbers? The ease of communication is surely one reason. The inexpensive and easy ability to send e-mail and instant messages to anyone else connected to the network is a clear advantage. Beyond basic communication, people search for information about every thing imaginable that is of interest to them. People also engage in various kinds of transactions: to buy and sell goods and services, pay bills and taxes, to find a place to live or a new job. In this course we look at all of these things and more.

If the past is an indication of the future, the digital revolution has only just begun to make its impact felt. Those individuals who will lead us in the next generation must cultivate an understanding of digital technology and where it is heading. While there is much to be optimistic about, not everything about being digital bodes well for society. It is only through knowledge that we can avoid the pitfalls. The goal of this course is intended to help guide the way.

Questions to consider:

Learning Objectives:

Things to read:

A new crop of kids: Generation We
Stefanie Olsen | 01.22.2007

How the Internet is Changing Consumer Behavior and Expectations (presentation)
Lee Rainie | 05.09.2006

Internet Penetration and Impact
Mary Madden | 04.26.2006

We Are the Web
Kevin Kelly | 08.00.2005

The Future of the Internet
Susannah Fox, Janna Q. Anderson and Lee Rainie | 01.09.2005

Things to watch:

Innovation Everywhere
Raymond Kurzweil | 09.29.2005

The Six Webs, 10 Years On
Bill Joy | 09.25.2005

The Power of the Network to Change the Way We Work, Live, Play, and Learn
John Chambers | 09.08.2005

Assessing the Internet: Lessons Learned, Strategies for Evolution, and Future Possibilities
Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn | 08.22.2005

Origins and Future of the Web
Tim Berners-Lee | 09.24.2004

Internet moving into Iron Age
Vint Cerf | 06.18.2004

A Brief History of the Internet
Scott Bradner | 02.08.2004

Extreme Globalization: What's Next in Telecommunications
Nicholas Negroponte | 04.15.2003

The Networked World of E-Business: Are We Ready for It?
Lou Gerstner | 10.10.2002

Case studies:



Hungry minds:

Musings on the Internet
Vinton G. Cerf

The Diffusion of Electronic Business in the U.S.
Emin M. Dinlersoz and Rubén Hernández-Murillo

A Brief History of the Internet
Barry Leiner, et al.

The Digital Economy Fact Book 2004
William F. Adkinson, Jr., Thomas M. Lenard and Michael J. Pickford

The Internet and Daily Life
Deborah Fallows

A Nation Online
US Dept of Commerce

The Vanishing Hand: the Modular Revolution in American Business
Richard N. Langlois

Attention Economy and the Net
Michael Goldhaber

Surveying the Digital Future: Ten Years, Ten Trends
Jeffrey I. Cole, et al.

Ten Strategies for Survival in the Attention Economy
Saul J. Berman

Look it up:


Digital revolution




Places to visit:

Connected Earth

Pew Internet and American Life Project

Internet Society

Internet Archive Wayback Machine

Internet World Stats

U.S. Census eStats

Yahoo! Netrospective: 10 years, 100 moments of the Web, 1995-2005

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